When Ronaldo (The Brazilian and real one) retired I wrote a blog waxing lyrical about how great ‘El Fenomeno’ was. For me, he’s still the greatest player I’ve seen. His explosiveness and power were extraordinary, as were his goals and the amount he scored.
But I am a 1984 baby. My first World Cup that I can remember was 1990. Although I recall Roberto Baggio’s wonderful solo goal against Czechoslovakia, Toto Schillaci’s goal celebrations, Gazza’s tears and Claudio Caniggia being hacked down by an over enthusiastic Cameroonian defence, the finals didn’t engulf my whole world like USA 94 did four years later.
Brazil would light up that tournament. Their glorious yellow jerseys always caught the eye as did players like Dunga with his determination, Rai with his class and Bebeto with his intelligence.
But one man stood out more than others. That man was the cheeky, small, pacey striker known as Romario.
He came back into my mind when a story cropped up of him dating a nineteen year old US singer. He might now be forty-eight but the Brazilian was always a confident somewhat cocky lad. So the news that he was now dating a girl more than half his age and living life to the full isn’t much of a surprise.
Romario was the first Brazilian striker that I adored to watch.
As for his style of play, well he was a joy to view. He was slight but had lightning pace. He was also calm, composed and clinical in front of goal. He would love to terrorise defences by running at them and beyond them. Adept in finishing with either foot, he also had superb presence of mind to look up before receiving a pass just to scout where the keeper or opposing defenders were. Once in the box more often than not the clinical finisher would find the net.
He actually came to my attention the season before the World Cup in the States, when he was plying his trade at PSV Eindhoven. It was the dawn of the Champions League format that took over from the old European Cup knockout competition.
As a young Rangers fan, I kept my eye on this new European venture as the Gers were firmly in the mix competing for the famous trophy. PSV had to overturn a one goal deficit against AEK Athens to qualify for the group stages, Romario was the saviour when he grabbed a hat-trick in Holland and helped secure a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Rangers were drawn in Group A with eventual winners Marseille and while PSV were in a tough group with favourites AC Milan, FC Porto and IFK Goteborg.
PSV would pick up the wooden spoon in their group only managing to gain a single point against Porto in Portugal. But Romario would end the competition as its top scorer with an impressive seven goals, keeping him ahead of Marco van Basten and Alen Boksic.
All in, Romario would bag twenty European goals in thirty-five European matches.
After that European campaign with PSV, Romario would leave the Dutch side and move to Catalan giants Barcelona.
He was part of the Johan Cruyff revolution at Barca alongside greats like Andoni Zubizarreta, Albert Ferrer, Ronald Koeman, Miguel Nadal, Angel Josep Guardiola, Jose Mari Bakero, Guillermo Amor and Aitor Begirstain.
Romario would also form a lethal partnership with world-class striker Hristo Stoichkov. Like Romario, Stoichkov would light up USA 94 with his class and goals. Between them the two forwards would pick up fifty-six goals for Blaugrana during the 93-94 season.
It was almost a perfect debut season for the Brazilian striker. Barca would win the La Liga title beating Deportivo La Coruna in a play-off. He would end the Spanish season scoring a whopping thirty goals in just thirty two appearances and being rewarded with the Pichichi trophy, six goals ahead of his nearest rival Davor Suker. He would grab himself a hat-trick in the El Clasico against bitter rivals Real Madrid and thus writing himself into Barca folklore.
Barcelona would go all the way to the Champions League final that season but were humbled 4-0 by the terrific AC Milan side in Athens.
The small striker would then bag five goals in the World Cup and helped gain the most coveted trophy in football, it was the first time in twenty-four years that Seleção had won the cup. Romario’s late goal against Sweden was the vital one they needed to get to the final and he settled his nations nerves when he scored his penalty in the final against Italy.
The legendary frontman would go on to win the Golden Ball (World Cup’s best player) and Fifa’s player of the year award in 1994.
Unfortunately the striker would never again grace a World Cup arena. In 1998, he failed to fully recover from an injury and so was left out of the squad. He wasn’t included for the 2002 squad after falling out with coach Luis Felipe Scolari and despite Romario’s desperate public apology and grovelling he wasn’t forgiven and had to watch Brazil lift their fifth World Cup at home.
When he ended his international career he had a super impressive goals to games record with fifty-five goals in seventy international games.
Maybe its fate that Romario would be last seen at a World Cup cradling the trophy he played such a huge part in securing.
Romario would spend six more months at the Nou Camp and was not nearly as successful.
He would be involved in an on-field bust up with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Romario was suspended for five games after punching the Argentine. He would depart Barcelona midseason after a furious bust-up with Cruyff. These sort of actions and reactions were typical of Romario. He was always a hothead and never slow at offering his opinion.
He would leave Europe (returning very briefly for a spell with Valencia during 96 & 97) and returned home to Brazil.
Romario would play for four different Brazilian sides but would sign for them multiple times after constantly falling out with owners, coaches and teammates. He signed for Vasco da Gama four times (his last spell as player-coach), Fluminense twice and Flamengo three times. He would end his career at America-RJ making one substitute appearance for the club, fulfilling his fathers wishes.
Romario would often accept lucrative offers from wealthy new world clubs and moves to Miami (USA), Al-Saad (Qatar) and Adelaide (Australia) would certainly enhance his bank balance.
Throughout his return to Brazil things usually remained constant. He scored bundles of goals and caused controversial departures with his temper and constant feuding.
There are two feuds that really stand-out for me with Romario.
The first is with the ‘Animal’ Edmundo. As you can imagine given his nickname Edmundo was a bit of a wild-man. But initially the two strikers were party chums, who would enjoy playing foot-volleyball together on Rio’s beautiful beaches. But things turned sour when Edmundo took the hump when Romario opened up a bar that had a caricature of Edmundo sitting on a ball outside one of the toilets. Things became even more awkward between the pair when they were together at Vasco da Gama and they fought over who should take a penalty (a bit like Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas) it was decided that the club owners golden boy Romario should take it. He missed. Which prompted this response from the Animal…
“The King (owner) decided his Prince (Romario) should take it,”
A week later the ageing Romario would score in Vasco’s next fixture and took time out to take a pop back at Edmundo. He said…
“Now, everyone in the kingdom is happy — the King, the Prince and the court jester (Edmundo).”
But for all that, his biggest altercations and disagreements seem to happen with Brazilian footballing god Pele.
Now maybe Romario has small mans syndrome or just the confidence of a mafia don but he just never seems to shy away from the odd ding-dong.
Jealousy over Pele’s goals record and the fact he is hero worshipped seems to rub Romario up the wrong way. Pele is noted for scoring over 1,00o goals in his career and Romario has since made a similar claim. But it seems Romario and his research team have included all goals including ones in club friendlies, training, school, in the park and in his dreams!
In 2007 Romario stated that Pele was ‘a poet when he doesn’t speak’. That prompted Pele to call Romario ‘ignorant’. Obviously Romario wouldn’t sit back and let that go without responding and so he said ‘Aside from a poet, he’s also an imbecile’.
It’s a shame that past greats feel the need to court such bad feelings, it’s as if they can’t let go of the glorious pasts and this is a good way to keep getting newspaper columns.
Now Romario is your typical Brazilian football. A genius with the ball at his feet and with the goals in his sight. But the striker also loved having a party and a good time. He followed in the footsteps of Garrincha and was followed by Ronaldo, Adriano and Ronaldinho. His job was to score goals and to entertain but he lived for a night out!
For me he was always the appetiser before Ronaldo. He made me appreciate Brazilian strikers, while Ronaldo would make me love them!
Posted on January 24th, 2015 by scott
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